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Your Toddler

AAP: Winter Car Seat Safety

2:00

So far in Texas, this year’s El Nino weather pattern has made for a pretty mild winter compared to previous years. But, other areas around the country are being hit hard with a wintery punch and it’s only a matter of time till temperatures drop and snow and ice find their way to the Lone Star State.

Winter can be a bit tricky for child car seat use. While it sounds like the opposite might be true, bulky clothing such as coats and snowsuits should not be worn under the car seat harness.

More padding - more cushion right? That seems logical until you know what happens when a car crashes. In a wreck, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space under the harness. A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.

So how can you keep your little one warm and protected while buckled up? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has these tips to help strike a comfortable and safer balance.

·      Use a coat or blanket over the straps. You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps or put your child's winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up. Some parents prefer products such as poncho-style coats or jackets that zip down the sides so the back can flip forward over the harness. Keep in mind that the top layer should be removable so your baby doesn't get too hot after the car warms up.

·      Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby. Nothing should ever go underneath your child's body or between her body and the harness straps. Be sure to leave baby's face uncovered to avoid trapped air and re-breathing. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because it's on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe!

·      Dress your child in thin layers. Start with close-fitting layers on the bottom, like tights, leggings, and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. In very cold weather, long underwear is also a warm and safe layering option. As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults. If you have a hat and a coat on, your infant will probably need a hat, coat, and blanket.

·      Don't forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. These help keep kids warm without interfering with car seat straps. If your child is a thumb sucker, consider half-gloves with open fingers or keep an extra pair or two of mittens handy — once they get wet they'll make your child colder rather than warmer.

·      Get an early start. If you're planning to head out the door with your baby in tow on winter mornings, you need an early start. You have a lot to assemble, and your baby may not be the most cooperative. Plus, driving in wintry conditions will require you to slow down and be extra cautious.

·      Tighten the straps of the car seat harness. Even if your child looks snuggly bundled up in the car seat, multiple layers may make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child's chest.

·      Remember, if the item did not come with the car seat, it has not been crash tested and may interfere with the protection provided in a crash. Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.

·      Store the carrier portion of infant seats inside the house when not in use. Keeping the seat at room temperature will reduce the loss of the child's body heat in the car.

·      Pack an emergency bag for your car. Keep extra blankets, dry clothing, hats and gloves, and non-perishable snacks in your car in case of an on-road emergency or your child gets wet on a winter outing.

·      Make sure your cell phone is charged. If there is an emergency, you want to be able to reach 911 or call for assistance in case of a flat tire or engine trouble.

This is a time when there is a lot of holiday travel from state to state or just down the road to grandma’s house.

Remember, it’s not just children in car seats whose coats shouldn’t be tucked under the harness, adults and older children should make sure their coats are on the outside of the seat-belt.

Little steps can make a big difference in everyone’s safety.

Source: https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Winter-Car-Seat-Safety-Tips.aspx

Your Baby

Preventing Peanut Allergies in High-Risk Children

2:00

New research suggests that, under clinical supervision, children that are at a high risk for developing a peanut allergy can build a lasting tolerance to the legume.

Children that participated in the new study were fed peanuts for years as part of a supervised clinical trial. Now, the researchers are reporting that those youngsters maintained their tolerance for at least a year, even if they didn't keep eating peanuts.

"The therapy persisted, and after 12 months of avoidance there was no increase in the rates of peanut allergy. They maintained their ability to tolerate peanuts, even though they hadn't been eating it," said Dr. Sherry Farzan, an allergist with Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. Farzan wasn't involved in the research.

This suggests that the immune system "learns" that peanut is not a threat to the body, and kids won't have to keep eating peanuts for the rest of their lives to maintain their tolerance, said Dr. Scott Sicherer. He's a pediatric allergy specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Sicherer also wasn't part of the current study.

This study is an extension of the groundbreaking LEAP (Learning Early about Peanut Allergy) clinical trial. Last year, that trial found that feeding peanuts to at-risk babies for 60 months reduced their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The study determined an infant's risk of peanut allergy using an allergy skin test.

Before the original LEAP study results, physicians told parents to avoid exposing their child to allergic foods until they were older and their immune system were more developed.

But the LEAP trial found that exposing at-risk kids to peanuts regularly beginning in infancy actually prevented peanut allergies by the time they reached age 5, Sicherer said. Eating peanuts lowered the rate of peanut allergy by 80 percent in the now-preschoolers, according to the study authors.

"For this high-risk group, waiting longer and longer to eat peanut isn't good," Sicherer said. "It's better to get it into your diet as soon as possible."

Both Farzan and Sicherer warned that this type of preventive strategy should only be given under a doctor’s supervision.

And, this prevention therapy is only for kids at risk of peanut allergy, not for kids who already have developed the allergy, Sicherer warned.

"If you have someone who already had a peanut allergy and gave them peanuts, then they'd get sick and maybe end up in an emergency room," he said.

After the initial study, researchers wanted to know if the children who were successful at building a tolerance to peanuts would have to eat them regularly for the rest of their lives.

To answer this question, the researchers followed more than 500 of the original 640 children for a one-year period of peanut avoidance. Half of this group included previous peanut consumers. The other half had always avoided peanuts.

 

After 12 months of peanut avoidance, only 5 percent of the original peanut consumers were found to be allergic, compared to 19 percent of the original peanut avoiders, the findings showed.

"This study offers reassurance that eating peanut-containing foods as part of a normal diet -- with occasional periods of time without peanut -- will be a safe practice for most children following successful tolerance therapy," said Dr. Gerald Nepom. He is director of the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), the consortium behind the LEAP trial.

"The immune system appears to remember and sustain its tolerant state, even without continuous regular exposure to peanuts," he added in an ITN news release.

Farzan said there appears to be a "critical period" between 4 and 11 months where "we can push the immune system around a little."

Farzan and Sicherer both said that by the time kids reach age 5, the immune system appears to have accepted that peanuts aren't a danger to the body.

"After following this pattern, it may not be that important anymore, at least after age 5, to worry if someone isn't keeping up," Sicherer said. "It may not be necessary to keep up with such consistent ingestion."

According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health, food allergies affect between 2 and 10 percent of U.S. children. Peanut allergy is considered the most fatal food allergy. 

The LEAP study, and now with the results from its extended research, may offer a new generation of children a chance at preventing this problematic allergy altogether.

Story source: HealthDay reporter Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20160304/supervised-exposure-therapy-for-peanut-allergy-lasts-study-finds

 

Your Child

Kids Who Specialize In One Sport Have More Injuries

Kids who came to the clinic with injuries played organized sports an average of 11 hours a week, compared with fewer than nine hours in the uninjured group. Although the researchers did not specifically look at this, Jayanthi said he has noticed that more highly specialized sports such as tennis, gymnastics and dance tend to be linked to more severe overuse injuries.Because a child’s body is still growing, children who specialize in only one sport suffer repetitive injuries more often, a new study says.

In fact, kids are twice as likely to get hurt –playing just one sport- as those who play multiple sports said Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, medical director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "We saw a pretty significant difference with this intensity of training, along with specialization," said Jayanthi. The findings are slated to be presented Monday at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary. "It's been accepted for the last five years or so that kids who are not super-specific do better. They're cross-trained, so they're conditioned for other movements," said Dr. Kory Gill, an assistant professor at Texas A&;M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Jayanith’s research team had done earlier studies on 519 junior tennis players and found that the kids who only played tennis were more likely to get hurt. Jayanthi wanted to see if the same findings extended to other sports. "As a physician, you get frustrated seeing kids come in with injuries that keep them out for two to three months. It's devastating," said Jayanthi, who recently saw a young gymnast with a knee injury that will keep her off the mat for at least three months. Here, the researchers looked at 154 young athletes, average age 13, who played a variety of sports. Eighty-five of the participants came to the clinic for treatment for a sports injury, while 69 were just getting sports physicals. The investigation ranked each athlete on how specialized they were, basing the score on factors like how often they trained in one sport, whether they had given up other sports to practice just one, and if they trained 8 months a year or more to compete more than 6 months a year on one sport. What they discovered was that 60.4 percent of the athletes who had been injured were specialized in one sport, compared with only 31.3 percent who came in for physicals. Kids who came to the clinic with injuries played organized sports an average of 11 hours a week, compared with fewer than nine hours in the uninjured group. Although the researchers did not specifically look at this, Jayanthi said he has noticed that more highly specialized sports such as tennis, gymnastics and dance tend to be linked to more severe overuse injuries. Why did these injuries occur? "One reason is repetitive use of the same muscle group and stressors to growing areas, for example, the spine," explained Jayanthi, who stressed that the findings were preliminary. His team, in collaboration with Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, plans to enroll more athletes in follow-up research, and those athletes will be evaluated every six months for three years, to look more closely at how intense training can affect a young athlete's body during growth spurts. "Second is exposure risk," he added. "If you're getting really good at one sport, the intensity increases because you are getting better. People are developing adult-type sports skills in a child's body. The growing body probably doesn't tolerate this." Younger children -- those who have not entered high school -- tend to be especially vulnerable as their bodies are still growing, said Gill, who recommended that kids cross-train and condition for other movements, or just play another sport. "I tell parents to let kids be kids and play multiple sports," he said. "See what they're good at and what they enjoy." By high school, when bodies are more mature, specializing is safer, he added. When children play different sports in different seasons, they are using a wide range of motions and muscles. But when they begin playing one sport year-round, the risk of overuse injuries increases.

Your Child

“Is Santa Real?”

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This time of year Santa is on the minds of little ones around the world. He’s also on the minds of many parents facing that tricky question, “Is Santa real?”

Who can resist the story of a jolly old man with a beard, driving a sleigh loaded with presents for boys and girls and pulled by flying reindeer?

It’s not true of course, but that doesn’t stop millions of us from passing on the story we learned as children to our own little ones. It’s a tradition that seems to never get old or fade away.

There comes a time however, when children begin to suspect that Santa isn’t real. How a parent handles the moment of truth can affect how a child will react.

Many kids begin to hear that Santa isn’t real from classmates or friends or even an older sibling. Some children may be devastated, and others may shrug it off and move on. You never quite know.

How do you know when it’s time to let children in on the big secret?

"There's really no one right time to tell kids that there's no Santa Claus," says Glen Elliott, Ph.D. Elliott is an associate professor and the Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. "The important thing is to take your cues from the child, and not try to prolong the fantasy for your own enjoyment when they may be ready to give it up."

Follow your child’s lead is a good tip. You know your child best, so consider his or her age and maturity before springing the truth on them. Kids typically begin having some doubts around 6-8 years old.

If your child is beginning to ask questions about Santa being real, it may be a way to confirm their suspicions that he’s not or they could simply want reassurance that Santa will arrive this Christmas.

For instance, your daughter might start getting suspicious about the three different Santas she sees during the course of a day of shopping. Or your son might ask questions about how Santa can get to every house in the world in one night, or how he gets into houses with no chimneys. All logical questions as a child learns how to develop a sequential order to things. Children who begin to ask a lot of logical questions about Santa Claus are probably ready to start hearing the truth about him.

Just as kids give you signals when they're ready to give up Santa, they also let you know when they're not. If a child is too young, they may not even comprehend what you are telling them. The younger the child, the more real Santa seems. Santa is Santa and he comes every Christmas – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

So, how do you make that transition between real Santa and no Santa? There’s several ways to approach the topic.

Help your child understand a more generous and loving side to Santa. The magic of Santa isn’t just about doling out material gifts, but also of spreading joy, kindness and love around the world. You can suggest to your child that we all can be Santas by helping others. We can all spread a little happiness – just like Santa does- by giving to others, even those we don’t know.  The emphasis becomes doing something for someone else.  There are many charities that depend on people to donate gifts for children in need. Plan a shopping date to buy toys or clothes for less fortunate children and let your child pick out what to buy. Let your child be a part of giving not just receiving.

Another approach is to talk about your own childhood and how you too believed there was a Santa. Tell your little one about how you felt when you learned that Santa wasn’t real and how it became ok once you understood. Also, there are many books available with excellent stories on the non-reality of Santa you can read with your child.

Some children are afraid that if there is no Santa, there’s no Christmas. Explain that is never the case. Christmas is much more than Santa and toys. It’s actually a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. For Christians and some other faiths, the story of the birth of Jesus reveals a much deeper meaning that revolves around family, sacrifice, love and giving.

The magic of Christmas doesn’t fade away once you tell your child there is no Santa. Just like every other passage in life, we learn to adjust and keep the beauty of the tradition while creating a new experience to take its place.

Santa may not be a real person, but he does have many lessons to teach us. The best story I’ve read about telling a child the story of Santa comes from writer, Martha Brokenbrough. She penned an article for the New York Times that encapsulates the heart of the Santa story. This is a good start to finishing the question, is Santa real?

The article addresses a question her daughter, Lucy, asked, “Are you Santa?”

Here is a segment of that story:

“Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.”

Story sources: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/when-santa-stops-being-real#1

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/no-longer-believing-in-santa/?_r=0

Your Toddler

Does Parents’ Obesity Impact Toddlers’ Developmental Skills?

2:00

Children, whose parents are obese, may show signs of developmental delays by the time they are 3 years old, according to a new study.

The specific developmental problems seem to differ depending on whether the mother, father or both parents are obese, according to researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

"Specifically, mothers' obesity was associated with a delay in achieving fine-motor skills, and fathers' obesity in achieving personal and social skills -- that includes skills for interacting with others," said lead researcher Edwina Yeung. She's an investigator in the institute's division of intramural population health research.

"When both parents were obese, it meant longer time to develop problem-solving skills," she added.

Not everyone agrees with the researchers’ conclusion. At least one pediatric neurologist suggests that the results don’t necessarily prove a direct cause and effect.

And Yeung acknowledges the same. "We used observational data, which doesn't allow us to prove cause and effect, per se," she explained.

What the researchers found was interesting though. Compared with children of normal-weight mothers, children of obese mothers were 67 percent more likely to fail a test of fine-motor skills (using their hands and fingers) by age 3.

In addition, children of obese fathers were about 71 percent more likely to fail tests of personal and social skills, which may indicate how well they relate to and interact with others, by age 3, the researchers said.

Children whose mother and father were both obese were nearly three times more likely to fail tests of problem-solving ability by age 3, according to the researchers’ findings.

Most research into understanding child health and development has focused on mothers and their pregnancies. "Our findings suggest that factors from fathers may also play a role and deserve attention," Yeung said.

One child health expert doesn't think obese parents should be overly concerned by this study.

"Children of obese parents are not doomed to have developmental problems," said Dr. Ian Miller. He is a pediatric neurologist and director of Neuroinformatics at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.

There’s a long list of other conditions that can also impact the brain such as lead-poisoning, sickle cell disease, iron-deficiency anemia, autism, epilepsy or cerebral palsy—any of which can cause developmental problems, Miller said. He isn't ready, however, to add obesity to that list.

But, obesity may increase the risks of these health problems, Miller says. The probability for developmental problems is low among all children, including those of obese parents. "It's not a 'sky is falling' type of scenario," he said.

For the study, Yeung and her colleagues collected data on more than 5,000 women and their children who were part of the Upstate KIDS study, which sought to determine if fertility treatments could affect child development from birth through age 3.

The women were enrolled in the study about four months after giving birth in New York state, excluding New York City, between 2008 and 2010.

About one in five pregnant women in the United States is overweight or obese, Yeung said.

To check the children's development, parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire after doing a series of activities with their children, Yeung said.

The test doesn't diagnose specific problems, but is a screen for potential problems, so that children can be referred for further testing, she explained.

The children were tested at 4 months and six more times through age 3 years. Mothers also gave information on their health and weight, both before and after pregnancy, and the weight of their partners, Yeung said.

More studies are needed to further examine if there is a link between obese parents and their offspring’s developmental skills, Yeung said.

The report was published online Jan. 2 in the journal Pediatrics.

Story Source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20170103/can-parents-weight-hinder-toddlers-development#1

Your Child

“Opt-Out” of Letting Schools Sell Your Child’s Personal Information!

2:00

If your child is in school, you may have unknowingly given the school the right to sell your child’s private information to data brokers and marketing companies. It happens every year and many parents don’t know they could have signed a form preventing the sale.

Schools are allowed by federal law to sell your child’s personal information to anyone unless you fill out an “opt-out “ form. If you don’t fill it out, personal information such as your child’s name, address, email, telephone number, age, gender, height and weight and photo can be sold.

Not only can your child be subjected to a ridiculous amount of advertising from marketing companies, anyone can use that information to locate your child if they really want to find him or her. They can also contact your child through personal emails or phone and have a picture to identify them.

"Directory information may sound innocuous, but it can include sensitive information about each student that is quite detailed," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. "And after the school releases this data, it is considered to be public information and you've lost control of it. I don't think most parents know this."

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), a student's directory information includes home address, email address, telephone number, date and place of birth, height and weight, the clubs or sports teams they've joined - even a photograph.

FERPA was written before the creation of the Internet, when a student's personal information was stored in a file cabinet and privacy was not such a big issue. Today, the data is just what a stalker, abuser or identity thief needs.

FERPA also gives parents the right to see what “directory information” the school has about their children. You have a right to block or limit access to that information. But, the window of time you can do that is short, sometimes just a few weeks after school begins. Once the time frame expires, you cannot stop the release of your child’s personal information until the next school year.

This is especially important for domestic violence survivors who are hiding from their abuser. Information that's released without their knowledge could jeopardize their safety.

"When there are situations where the survivor has left with the child and has custody of the child and they're living elsewhere, they want to know that their abuser doesn't know where they are living," said Kaofeng Lee, deputy director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "If this information is available, the abuser could get access to where this child is going to school which will pinpoint exactly where the family is now living and make it possible to find them."

Many schools do not do a good job in letting parents know about the form. Some have even neglected to provide the form to parents and some schools have worded the forms in such a way as to discouraged parents from signing them.

It’s a battle for your child’s data and parents need to be aware that they have the right and the means to protect that information from getting out to marketing firms and individuals.

Congress is scheduled to review FERPA to see what further privacy protections are needed to keep students and families’ information private in the digital age. Until then, parents have to seek out and make sure that the opt-out forms are signed, sealed and delivered.

A warning to parents; this isn’t a one-time fix either. You must sign these forms every year that your child attends school.

Source: Herb Weisbaum, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/student-privacy-n423466

 

 

 

Your Child

Obesity Related Heart Disease Found in Children as Young as 8

2:00

All you have to do is look around, wherever children are gathered, to see that there are far too many kids that are overweight in this country.  And sadly, some of these children may already be developing heart disease according to a new study.

The study reports that obese children as young as 8 years of age, are beginning to show signs of heart abnormalities.

"It is both surprising and alarming to us that even the youngest obese children in our study who were 8 years old had evidence of heart disease," said study lead author Linyuan Jing, a postdoctoral fellow with Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.

"Ultimately, we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible," Jing added. "However, it is possible that there could be permanent damage."

Researchers conducted MRI scans of 40 children between 8 and 16 years old. Half of the participants were obese; the other half was of normal weight for their age and height.

They found that the obese children had an average of 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle region their heart, and 12 percent thicker heart muscle overall. Both are considered indicators of heart disease, Jing said.

Among 40 percent of the obese children, scans showed thickened heart muscle had already translated into a reduced ability to pump blood. The children with this reduced heart capacity were considered to be at “high risk” for adult cardiac strain and heart disease.

"This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle," Jing said.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, called the findings "alarming."

Some of the obese children in the study were struggling with health complications often associated with excess weight, including asthma, high blood pressure and depression, the researchers said. But none displayed customary warning signs of heart disease such as fatigue, dizziness or shortness of breath, Jing said.

The study did not include kids with diabetes or those that were too large to fit inside the MRI scanning machine. Jing noted that the study might actually underestimate how many children are suffering from heart related problems associated with obesity.

Jing said it’s up to parents to help their children maintain a healthy weight. They should buy healthy foods instead of cheap fast food and fruit juice, "which is high in sugar but low in fiber," she said.

She also recommended that parents limit TV, computer and video game time and encourage more physical outdoor activities.

Childhood obesity isn’t just an American problem; it’s a global problem as well.  The World Heart Federation says that one in 10 school-aged children worldwide are estimated to be overweight. However, in the USA, the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.

The researchers believe that schools can play a role in helping families understand the health problems associated with obesity.

“…Schools and communities need to do a better job at educating both the parents and children about the health risks of overweight and obesity," said Jing.

Fonarow agreed adding, "Substantially increased efforts are needed to prevent and treat childhood obesity."

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Alan Mozes, http://consumer.healthday.com/cardiovascular-health-information-20/misc-stroke-related-heart-news-360/obese-kids-as-young-as-8-show-heart-disease-signs-705099.html

 

 

 

Your Baby

Pets May Protect Infants Against Allergies

1.30 to read

Fluffy or Fido may protect your baby from developing allergies later in life. Many owners will tell you that their pet is like a family member. A new study suggests that those four-legged family members may reduce a child’s risk of developing allergies.

For years allergists have warned parents that some pets may actually cause allergies, but a new study published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy suggests that early exposure to pets, during an infant’s first year of life, appears to provide an actual defense against allergies later in life. Lead study author Ganesa Wegienka, Ph.D., of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit noted, “Exposing children to cats and dogs in the home is not going to increase the risk of sensitization to these animals. It might even decrease the risk.” Interesting revelations were found in the study such as; 18 year old males, who lived with a dog in the house when they were an infant, reduced their risks of developing allergies by half,  but not so with girls. Cats, on the other hand, seem to affect both sexes. Infant boys and girls who lived in a home with cats reduced their risks of developing allergies –by about 48%- by the age of 18 years. Another finding of the analysis showed that both males and females delivered by C-section had a 67 percent less likelihood of developing a dog allergy when a dog was present in the home during their first year of life. Wegienka said that this could be due to the fact that babies born by cesarean section are not exposed to the diverse microflora that babies born vaginally are. The long held idea that pets may cause allergies led Wegienka, and her colleagues, to study what effects childhood exposure to cats and dogs had on the risk of developing allergies to them. For their study, the researchers analyzed blood samples of more than 500 children taken during the Detroit Childhood Allergy Study from 1987 to 1989 that followed participants from birth. The focus of the analysis was to look for the presence of an antibody known as animal-specific IgE, which would indicate that a child was sensitized to that animal. In addition, follow-up among children in the study at age 18 included additional blood samples and pet histories. The histories indicated that 184 participants had a dog, and 110 of the children had a cat, during their first year of life. Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal's skin cells, saliva or urine. Signs of pet allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Some people may also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing. Severe allergic reactions can be deadly. Pet allergy is often triggered by exposure to the dead flakes, or dander, that a pet sheds. Any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergy, but the most common pets are cats, dogs, rodents and horses. Wegienka pointed out that the study does not definitively indicate that having a family pet will prevent infants from developing allergies later in life, as it only found an association between a reduced risk for allergies and exposure to cats and dogs at an early age. Wegienka cautioned, “We don't want to say that everyone should go out and get a dog or cat to prevent allergies.” She then added, “More research is needed, though we think this is a worthwhile avenue to pursue. How does having a dog or a cat change the home environment? And, how does that affect allergy risk?" If you have an infant and a pet sharing the house, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your little one to make sure that he or she is able to tolerate pet dander.

Parenting

Helping Shy Children Find Their Way

2:00

With school back in session, many shy kids are facing a difficult time. As a parent, you’re already familiar with your child’s personality and can tell when he or she is experiencing anxiety in a social situation.  Once your child enters school, there are going to be times when your little one is immersed in surroundings that may make them very uncomfortable, but along with challenges comes solutions.

As parents of a shy child, there are two traps to avoid: overprotectiveness and pressure. Trying to get your child to be more outgoing will only make him or her retreat. And sheltering denies them the chance to enjoy group activities or become comfortable in social circumstances. You have to walk a tightrope, promoting social behavior with compassion.

Some children are shy from birth and have a genetic predisposition to be that way. Other kids are shy only during certain situations that make them uncomfortable or afraid. These might include:

·      Meeting new people

·      Entering new situations

·      Being singled out or being the center of attention

·      Not knowing how they're expected to act or what they're expected to say

·      Being laughed at, embarrassed, or teased

Quite frankly, the last situation makes just about everyone uncomfortable, but for children that are naturally shy, it can be quite traumatic.

One tip for parents is to try and use the word “shy” less often when describing their child. Being labeled can make your child feel less confident. Being labeled anything presents a certain amount of pressure to live up to its definition. 

Instead, put a positive spin on his or her shyness. Maybe a more accurate characterization is "slow to warm up"; rather than withdrawing from or avoiding new situations, he or she just takes their time and sizes up the scene. This can be translated into a compliment: "You like to think things through," or "You like to get started slowly." As time goes on, your child can adopt this more positive view of him or her self and use it as a rebuttal if someone challenges their behavior.

Kids are often fearful when they don't have the social skills necessary to feel comfortable during a particular scenario. A child who hasn't spent much time around large groups of people, for instance, is more likely to want to avoid them. A child with low self-esteem or one who's been pushed hard academically may be afraid to fail, leading to shyness. Watch your child closely to see what triggers his or her shyness. Once you understand their anxieties better, you can talk them through and work together on ways to overcome them.

School is going to be a place where kids experience a tremendous amount of socialization- whether they want it or not. So why not practice difficult situations at home? This way, children have an idea of how to respond either before an event happens or before it happens again.

In an uncomfortable situation, a shy kid experiences the same physiological reactions that adults do. Your child may feel shaky, get sweaty, or turn red. His heart may race, or she may get a frog in her throat. If his reaction is visible to those around him, he may get even more embarrassed, setting up a cycle of awkwardness each time he has to step up to the plate.

With practice and reassurance, though, your child can prepare for those moments that throw him or her for a loop. You and your child can talk through the situations that make them nervous or, if your child is willing, even act them out together. He may giggle and think it's silly to practice saying hello at a birthday party or introducing himself to the soccer team, but he'll also begin to feel more confident in his ability to be friendly and relaxed.

You might also remind your child that it's normal to be nervous when meeting someone new, starting a new class, or being called upon by a teacher to speak. Describe one of your own flustered moments to show that most people have the same feelings.

In a child’s mind, one of the most important aspects of school is fitting in. This is a time when parents can make helpful suggestions. You might encourage him or her to get involved in activities by discussing the value of participation and then helping them discover a sport or activity they like to do. The key is to find something that suits them -- perhaps where they can be part of a team but still function as an individual, such as running cross-country or singing in the chorus. When a child realizes he or she is good at something, their confidence will rise, and so will their enthusiasm. However, if your child really resists, don't turn it into a power struggle. In a low-key way, keep making suggestions and trust that they’ll be drawn into an activity eventually.

Shyness should be a bump in the road, not a roadblock. With some anguish and a certain number of false steps, even very shy children can learn to forge relationships and cope when the spotlight is on them. They may have fewer friends than other kids, but those friendships will be just as close.

In rare cases, a child is so shy that he or she begins to avoid all interactions. If you are concerned that your child's shyness is isolating them or undermining their ability to function, seek help from a school counselor or your family pediatrician. Either may have valuable advice and can refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Yes, it can be like walking a tightrope trying to help a shy child learn how to handle uncomfortable situations. You don’t want to pressure too much or protect too much and it can be emotionally challenging figuring out the next step.  

By accepting your child as he or she is, you can help them accept who they are. It may help to remind yourself that your child's temperament isn't a reflection of your parenting skills. As long as he or she has some friends, is reasonably happy with his or her self, and can function as a student and family member, all is well. Praise your kid for their efforts to be social, provide advice when asked, keep an eye on their progress and challenges and know that they will find their way in the world.

Story source: Anne Krueger, https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/children-s-health-10/child-development-news-124/shyness-ages-6-to-12-645930.html

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